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Ukraine Moves Forward in South, With Little Resistance From Russia – The New York Times - 10.11.22

A day after Russia said it was withdrawing from Kherson City in the south, Ukraine’s forces moved into villages without a fight, indicating the Russians were, indeed, retreating says Andrew E. Kramer reporting from southern Ukraine, in territory newly vacated by Russian forces.

SNIHURIVKA, Ukraine — The Ukrainian soldiers inched forward in their pickup truck, weaving between burned Russian military vehicles, keeping a lookout for mines and pushing deeper into territory vacated by the Russian Army just a few hours earlier.

On Thursday, a crystalline fall day, the soldiers drove uneventfully into town as the few remaining residents stood on the roadsides, waving and crying.

“We were waiting for you for so long!” a woman yelled. People milled about, staring at the soldiers, who wore yellow ribbons around their arms to identify themselves as Ukrainians. “We are so happy.”

The Ukrainian Army is moving cautiously into areas abandoned by Russian troops along a front line in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, a day after Russia’s defense minister announced a retreat from the western bank of the Dnipro River, in the latest significant setback for Russia’s military.

President Vladimir V. Putin in September declared parts of this region Russian land, in a claimed annexation rejected by Ukraine and its Western allies. The largest city, Kherson, is a symbolic and strategic prize in the war, the only provincial capital seized by Russia after its invasion in February and a key to controlling Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline.

Ukrainian soldiers are advancing into heavily mined towns and villages, and navigating around bridges the Russians blew up to cover their withdrawal. Heavy fighting continues in some places.

But the Ukrainian advance without a fight into Snihurivka, an important hub north of Kherson City that was abandoned overnight, indicates the Russians are, indeed, retreating. Ukrainian officials had initially been skeptical; they feared a ruse in the Russian announcement of a pullback because it followed days of enigmatic declarations from the occupying authorities that clouded their intentions.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s military said it had advanced into 100 square miles of land in the past 24 hours and had reclaimed 12 towns and villages. The push through the Kherson region was real.

“The enemy is regrouping and taking measures to partially withdraw troops to the left bank of the Dnipro,” the military said in a statement, referring to the river’s eastern bank, where the Russian military has been building a fallback line of defenses. Some Russian soldiers were most likely still hiding in Snihurivka, said the commander of a reconnaissance unit, who provided only his first name, Ihor, for security reasons. “We have a goal to capture them or push them out.”

The Ukrainians have been attacking the retreating forces, the military said. As they break cover and pull back, the Russian soldiers are more vulnerable. The Ukrainian Air Force flew eight sorties, and artillery opened fire more than 100 times over the past 24 hours in southern Ukraine, the Southern Military Command said. It claimed to have destroyed three tanks, five armored vehicles and an ammunition depot. The claim could not be independently verified.

The Russian pullback from the expanse of farmland on the western bank of the Dnipro River comes as a pivot point in the war.

The Ukrainian military, engaging in a scrappy and underdog defense for eight months, has forced the Russians into three major retreats: from north of the capital, Kyiv, last spring; from the northeastern Kharkiv region in late summer; and now from at least portions of the western bank of the Dnipro River in the south.

Zelensky is hoping the against-all-odds battlefield wins will quiet criticism of Ukraine military aid among some members of the U.S. Congress. Ukrainian officials have also declared their conditions for discussing a cease-fire with Russia, including the removal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s land.

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Ukraine Moves Forward in South, With Little Resistance From Russia – by Andrew E
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Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from Mykolaiv, Ukraine.

Andrew E. Kramer is a reporter covering the countries of the former Soviet Union. He was part of a team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a series on Russia’s covert projection of power. @AndrewKramerNYT

A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 11, 2022, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Tears in Kherson as Ukrainian Troops Move In. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

A Ukrainian woman wept on Thursday after Ukrainian soldiers entered the village of Snihurivka, which had been occupied by Russian soldiers. Credit...Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

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